New research indicates growing prevalence of possibly more infectious coronavirus strain in Houston area

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New research from Houston indicates that the novel coronavirus has mutated, and the strain of the virus now primarily infecting people in the city’s metropolitan area is thought to be more easily transmitted and more infectious, according to a preprint study published Wednesday by Houston Methodist Hospital researchers. A preprint is not a peer-reviewed study, which is considered the norm in medical research; however, preprints have become a popular way to disseminate scientific and medical findings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The researchers sequenced the genomes of 5,085 SARS-CoV-2 strains taken from what they describe as two “waves” of infections in that area, with the “first wave” beginning in early March. About 82% of the cases in the first wave were caused by strains with the Gly614 variant, they said, while 99% of the “second wave” of infections, which they say began May 12, were caused by strains with the Gly614 variant. People impacted during the second wave of infections tended to be younger, had fewer co-morbidities, were poorer, and more likely to be Latino. “Although the full array of factors contributing to the massive second wave in Houston is not known, it is possible that the potential for increased transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 with the Gly614 may have played a role, as well as changes in behavior associated with the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays, and relaxation of some of the social constraints imposed during the first wave,” the researchers wrote.
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